Not limited to beating, child abuse includes any kind of harm done to children by adults (not necessarily parents and guardians, either, although they certainly have the most opportunity), such as physical or mental injury, act of sexual abuse or exploitation, negligent treatment, or maltreatment. The line between discipline and abuse is not well defined.

Discipline, from Latin discipulus == "pupil", refers to actions designed to teach your children.

It can sometimes be difficult to discern discipline from child abuse, defined under the Child Abuse and Prevention Treatment Act as "Any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker, which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse, or exploitation, or an act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm." Let me get some things out of the way first:

(Sources: http://www.childabuse.org/ http://www.calib.com/nccanch/pubs/stats00/define.pdf)

Discipline should be given in moderation; anything further becomes abuse under the law.

So what does that leave?

  • Confining your child for a few minutes is a common practice often called time-out. But don't go overboard.
  • Anyone up for a writeup on discipline methods?

More kinky...

The concept "emotional harm" in the law may not be that well-defined and varies widely from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Are these abuse or not?
  • Teach your child a conlang as his mother tongue. This is similar in a way to the forbidden experiment but 1. is much more practical and 2. won't bring charges of neglect. With twins, attempt to learn and document their language. (Reading Gritchka's writeups will give you a handle on techniques of linguistics.) Then speak it back to them, regularizing any irregular constructions they introduce. Let your twins play with other twins. (To get around some states' "mental injury" provisions, also teach the child a language spoken by the general public.)
  • If your boy's school does not require a uniform, dress your boy in a shirt that reaches down to his ankles. He may get made fun of, but a thick skin is important in the real world. See also Alvin and the Chipmunks.
  • Teach your child ways to move about other than simply walking or crawling. For example, occasionally bind eir legs together and place them in front of eir body, forcing the child to walk on hands and bottom like the Bile Demon from Dungeon Keeper 2. It's important to let your child know that this is a game intended to teach the child to appreciate what $DEITY has given em.

Obscure facts

California law appears to authorize private kiddie porn parties put on by law enforcement personnel.

Other child abuse nodes on E2

I no longer namespace my metanodes. See also: problems? /msg me

Andrea and I used to play together because our grandparents lived just across the street from each other, and because both of our parents lived less than a half-mile from there. I first met her brother on the bus, and feeling the need to show how tough my eight-year-old body was, I tomboyed around with him for a year or so until Andrea entered kindergarten. She first appeared, peeking through the chain-link fence of my grandparents yard while we were having a family picnic. My parents urged me over there, and finally gaining the courage, I introduced myself.

We soon became good playmates, but we always met at my grandparents house. After much begging she conceeded to show me her house. She lived at the end of a long driveway, just across the street. There were single electric wires on both sides of the road to keep the cows in. The yard was surrounded by a sparse forest, and in the underbrush one could see car parts, old tricycles, the twisted metal of a rusty chair, and an old deflated kiddie pool - algae growing in the water-filled wrinkles. In the middle of the clearing stood a moss-covered mobile home complete with a couple of saplings growing on the roof. My center of attention immediately turned to the trampoline and the dog, Bruno. Choosing bouncing fun over wet kisses I kicked off my shoes and dove onto the tramp. The rusty springs made a hell of a racket, and I suppose that is what infuriated her mother the most.

A bony figure with sunken eyes, skraggly hair, high-water pants, a cigarette and a bottle of cheap booze, threw open the door, and screamed Andrea's name followed by, "Jesus Christ you dumb bitch, I'm trying to sleep!" I froze on the trampoline, and my first fear was that I would be in trouble too. Andrea told me to stay where I was, and she meekly slid down from my height, and up the four stairs to her front porch. Her mother stared at her a moment before raising her left arm and back-handing Andrea off her feet, while cigarette ashes floated peacefully to the wooden slats below.

Sue (I later learned her name) grabbed her daughter by the arm and pulled her inside the dark house, not even bothering to shut the door while she shouted. Disobeying my friend I climbed down and walked a few paces away hoping to not be noticed. My escape was interrupted by Andrea and her mother flying out the door. Andrea sat sobbing on the porch. Her mother screamed for her to get out, to run away to her dad's house. Andrea just shook her head and stayed where she was. Her mother kicked her once and then grabbed her ear and hair in a fist, dragging her down the steps. Blood ran down Andrea's neck where an earring had torn her flesh.

I ran. I ran as hard as I could, so afraid that at any second I would be shot in the back, afraid that their dog would chase. I thought I would throw up, but I refused to allow myself to stop. I passed my grandparents house, fleeing to my own. My parents weren't home so I waited. When they returned from work I told them my story - how I wanted to call the police.

Though they listened intently, and comforted me, all they could offer to Andrea was, "Who's going to believe a nine-year-old girl?"

This is a true story.

Everything is bigger to a child; not only physically, but perceptually and emotionally, as well. A dollar found becomes a discovered treasure. A harsh word becomes a deafening declaration of war. A heap of dirty clothes in the corner becomes a nasty, fanged monster after the lights are out. A paper cut is a knife in the stomach. And a hug from a parent in times of fear becomes Perseus's shield, protecting them from Medusa's deadly power. Everything is amplified in ways adults find hard to remember.

So can you begin to imagine, just for a moment, the terror, the pain, the agony and confusion experienced by a child whose every waking moment is marked by fear and nothing but?

Childhood is over too soon under the best of circumstances; to strip a child of their trust, to despoil them of the belief that those who love you will always protect and never harm you, to commit the obscenity of taking a child and simply, totally ruining their world, to destroy the joy in their hearts ....

It is, in my opinion, the most unpardonable and irredeemable of human crimes. Period.

If you're a fiction writer, you'll see that a lot of editors shy away from stories that involve any harm coming to a child. And it often does seem like the lowest of low pandering tactics: you want suspense? To engage a reader's emotions? Then put a child in jeopardy!

And too often it is used as a cheap effect, especially in horror and suspense. Some authors do seem to sit down to write a piece and say, "Oh, I'll throw in a dash of child abuse for added depth." To do that is not only insulting to the reader and a slap in the face to those who dedicate their lives to bettering the existence of children who are in an abusive situation, but it serves to numb people to the plight of these children.

But I believe there's room for honest portrait of it in good fiction. Not to use a tale as bully pulpit or soapbox decrying child abuse, but to genuinely explore how abuse affects the human condition through the eyes of a story's characters.

If you write fiction about child abuse, probably the most important thing to remember is to keep your work from becoming what Ray Garton once called "whacking material for pedophiles." It's a hard thing to keep a graphic scene from becoming inadvertently titillating -- and sometime a story genuinely needs a graphic depiction.

To use what is probably my most uncomfortable example, take "Some Touch of Pity," a novella that appeared in Marty Greenberg's Werewolves. Anyone who's ever read that story remembers the rape scene. I agonized over that thing for weeks, not the least of which because I didn't want any element of that scene to seem even remotely titillating. Marty, God bless him, understood that a graphic presentation of the rape was integral to the story -- the central character relives this moment from his childhood on an almost hourly basis, it's what defined his view of himself, and it's what keeps him standing at arm's length from his own true heart. But Marty said that as the scene stood, it would be just too much for DAW. Understood.

I rewrote the scene so that the reader experienced it only through the sensations and impressions that the child could identify. That's the version that was published in the anthology. It was still effective, but it didn't pull the reader nose-first into the painful, filthy, bottomless pit of the character's suffering. So, when it came time to include the story in my first collection, I restored the rape scene to its original form, which is much more direct, unflinching, and brutal.

God, how I lost sleep over that. I worried that people would read it and think I was simply trying to shock them in the most depraved manner. I worried that readers would find the story offensive and unreadable. Then I realized that, with all the worries I was dredging up, the one which never crossed my mind was: is it necessary to be this graphic?

The story informed me that, yes, it was necessary to present it in this way. I'm relieved to say that, in the years since I published the uncut version, not one person has accused me of being irresponsible in telling the story in the manner that it required. Writing that story was a gut-wrenching experience, but ultimately I think it was worth it.

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